Time flew when talking to Hannah Alkindi aka @hannah.jp. In the time that we spoke, she became my careers advisor, travel agent, counselor and friend. A genuine soul, her sharpness and words of intelligence, were beyond her years as I lapped up everything she said. Her highly sought-after wardrobe teems with heavenly 97s and her raw Instagram speaks an honest depiction of her views on the world.
“I will tell you it from the start” she instructs me. “My heritage is half-Bosnian and half-Persian.” Already I feel boring in comparison but she is quick to reassure me: “I love welsh people!” A rare statement from anyone, I know that I need her as a friend. “So basically my dad came to London, when he was quite young, but then my mum and her side are refugees from Bosnia. They came over from the Yugoslavia war. My mum and dad met… I was born in London. Bosnia is so different to England and especially London. A nine to five job was something my mum never wanted to do. She was doing it because it was something she had to do. One day she got tired of the London crap and was like, ‘Hannah we are packing up and going to Croatia’ and I was like ‘oh great’. Croatia is so close to Bosnia so it’s the closest place to home. The language is the same and the people are quite similar. So when I was six I went to Croatia and stayed there until fourteen. At fourteen I came back and lived with my dad for a year… they separated when I was three- I forgot that part! So how my dad would have raised me would have been very conservative. So then I moved to my nans, which is my mum’s mum, and now I live here! With her! And now I’m fine and absolutely ok!” I piece together the puzzle and understand where Hannah inherited her work ethic and determination from.
Although Hannah’s worldly insights and knowledge give her a rare essence, that is difficult to find in anyone, it all stems back to her attachment to London. She is the personification of London. She represents everything about the buzzing city, from her refreshing and warm personality, to her grungy clothes and easy-going attitude. Like London, people to swarm to her for inspiration, creativity, guidance but her individuality is something that cannot be copied.
She tells me: “I don’t want to leave London! I’ve always been in London so for me I don’t want to leave here because everything I do, creatively, is here. If I moved I would feel isolated.”
“I took a gap year and got a place reserved at Kings College for History and German. I’ve done a few campaigns since finishing school. At the moment I’ve just been travelling for a bit. I’ve taken a gap year for a reason and to just chill for a bit. I’ve done eighteen years of education so lets just pause a bit.”
As if the daunting drudgery of university is not enough, Hannah represents the age-old claim that women are the best multi-taskers. “I’ve had a meeting with The Basement about pushing forward girls, getting them on the scene and getting a girls only group to do projects and stuff. It gives everyone an opportunity, especially people in university or people trying to up their portfolios with photography, writing or creative stuff. Just trying to get everyone involved.” This girl certainly can.
“Apart from that, me personally, and this is not interesting at all… but I just got signed to an agency for modelling. It’s just an emotional rollercoaster. I would normally advocate for people not to get into it but it gives you the opportunity of travelling, money and meeting people and I’m very excited to do something new. Especially in this industry, and with modelling, every time you go to something there’s a new team and you meet new people. I’m excited for that but its very mentally draining for a person. If someone is not mentally prepared for the ‘you need to lose weight, your waist is too big, your hips are too big’ then people won’t be able to handle it. It’s a very harsh industry. I was lucky enough to slide into it but I think my background and my Instagram has given me enough experience where people pick up that I can do things like this. May as well!” Hannah modestly undermines herself and makes it sound as it anyone could conquer this world.
“Throughout sixth form, I’ve had an issue with… not friends but I had an issue with clicking with people… I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve had my group of friends but there were so many issues with it. I kind of just let it be. I didn’t try and fix it. I was just like ‘right. I will go through with this until the end of sixth form but then cut ties with them because I don’t need them’. It was always difficult to find someone on my level because I am bubbly, chatty… I’m up for anything! Then, when I came out of sixth form, it was like: ‘I need to find what I want to do, find myself and find what I want to do for the rest of my life’. There is only so much I can travel and run away from my problems and the future. Ok let’s take this time to chill and figure out, in this gap year, what I can do”.
“I took a few months to try a few things. Then I got scouted in October and it went off from there. From October to December I had to put myself in the mindset that the modelling industry is really difficult. I need to become emotionally and mentally very strong and not let it get to me. So from then, I started working on that. I never looked at Instagram, thought it would kick off and I would have 30K something followers. Never my intention… it just happened. But I think it’s changed a bit. It has shifted from normal street wear to…” Her Nan walks in, she graciously apologises and carries on. “So it’s massively shifted from the staple of street wear, to be different and rebellious, to high-end where everyone’s like ‘hey look at me!’ Labels and logos, I don’t have an issue with, but it’s turned into more of a competition now. Rather than just sharing your style, what you dress like and expressing yourself freely, it has become very follower and money-orientated.”
We chat about one of her recent Instagram posts where she explains why she had not been posting for a while. Her frank caption spoke to the minds of many caught up in the whirlwind of social media; especially those of our generation. “Sponsored posts are a very good way to earn money and I’ve done a few campaigns. But you have to decide between being a sellout or being yourself and portraying yourself. I’ve always tried to balance it out in my mind. At the end of the day you can’t say no to a good amount of money, but it’s also balancing it out with products that I like. Like Foot Locker. Send me trainers. I love trainers. Champion as well! I did a campaign for Champion as I was like: ‘love Champion. I’ll do that. Great.’ So I’ve been lucky enough to have been sent things that I wear anyway and also been lucky enough to get money from it. So I try to keep it like that but I’ve seen so many people doing things for money and likes that the feeling has dropped for me”.
“I’ve always thought of doing my own clothing line but I want a set idea to come to my mind before I start doing anything. Like I’ve tried a bit of design and stuff but I need a strong message behind it. I don’t think that putting a product that looks good… is good enough! I want a message to go through the whole line so I’m working on it”. From just listening to her, I know that she can master anything she puts her mind to. “But the message I want to send out is… I don’t know really… I don’t want to say ‘just be yourself’ because that’s very cliché. I feel like the whole influencers status is rubbish. I didn’t start out wanting to influence people and neither do I want to influence people now. I just am kind of sharing my perspective on things and how I am as a person and what I wear and you know, just bringing the feelings of London, my background and my culture into it. I always think that the best way to portray yourself is: you literally raw. Brands don’t make you. Instagram, as much as it is very brand-orientated, there is another side which is very personality orientated. I’ve seen people become big on Instagram because of how they are, what they are and what they portray of themselves. So I definitely just think… no one is going to like you for just brands. You need to have a personality. Personality needs to come behind it and that’s the same in life. Especially in this industry…if you’re going to be a bland person, or just cocky, then no one is going to like you at the end of the day. You need to bring something and brighten someone’s day.”
We discuss Croatia: my next holiday destination and where Hannah lived for the majority of her childhood. “I took summer off to visit my mum who lives in Croatia. It is beautiful! Everyone’s been going this year and last year, which is really weird for me as I lived there from the age of six to fourteen. Suddenly it’s become a tourist attraction. No one knew it was even on earth!” I point to myself and she chuckles: “it’s still a cheapish kind of place to go to so go before it takes off and gets very very expensive!” I let her know that maybe her calling is to become a travel agent as she cheerily says: “I can recommend you anything! I know the place like the back of my hand. That’s what I’m going to do in the future… become a tour guide!”
Although Google images tells me that Croatia is a picturesque destination, of enchanting towns and glittering coastlines of azure blue, Hannah (my tour guide) informs me that “fashion-wise, Croatia is very… not backwards… but there’s no fashion in Croatia. Now… yes, they’ve caught up but when I used to live there it didn’t exist but I was born in London. I always used to travel back to Croatia. So when I came back to London I kind of had to start fresh again. I had to go to school in year 10 where I didn’t know anyone. I had to find myself. Cliché again! I feel like I fitted into a group where, in a sense, I could express myself and be different. I jumped into The Basement, which is a predominantly male group, and is quite funny as I would normally feel really intimidated. But the main people were very accepting of me and pushed me to do campaigns and stuff. So if I never came back to London then I wouldn’t be where I am now. That was my own decision. At the age of 14 I went up to my mum and said ‘mum I feel like I want to go back to London.’ Obviously it was very hard for her but it took balls from both of us.”
At the beginning of the interview I asked her the question “is there anyone who inspires you?” Her initial response was this: “This is a question I get a lot! I never know what to answer. It’s a question you always ask yourself. I feel like I gather inspiration from people around me, the people I meet and everyday life around me. Rather than someone famous that everyone knows. I kind of get my inspiration from experiences as well. I’ve always looked up to the people I meet and I feel like they have something original about them or something they have overcome or a step in their life that they have taken. So I don’t look up to anyone famous or someone who has a name.” After making her turn the story of her life inside out, for me to understand it, by the end of the interview Hannah states: “when you ask me the person I look up to the most… it’s probably my mum because of everything she has done and been through. I kind of just want to become the type of person she is. She is very strong emotionally and mentally. The most important thing for me in life is being content”.
From Hannah’s depiction of her mum, she certainly appears to be her double. I am sure her mum is extremely proud of, not just her daughter’s achievements, but her amiability, empathy towards others and gracious intentions. “I have loads of paths in my mind. Either I’d like to become something of an activist, either something of a journalist, either something of an MP in parliament… but that’s a push… or either finishing my degree, uni and going into law to help people who don’t have an opportunity to pay for a very good lawyer… or starting up something that will help a specific community of a big group of people. I want to do something that would change the lives of certain people and not just benefit myself.” Hannah’s stance on life is unique. Many people her age are guilty of thinking selfishly but her sunny disposition and wonderful sense of humour make her a person everyone would love to befriend.
Her final words of advice to me are “don’t be negative, be positive!” and that’s Hannah in a nutshell. Her positivity is infectious. I know she will go very far and I am really excited to continue following her story.